For Weiss Memorial Hospital, the impact of the Omicron surge has been comparable to the first COVID-19 outbreak, if not worse, according to Weiss Director of Critical Care Services Debra Isakson, RN, MSN.

“Day by day, as we began to see COVID-19 symptoms increasing, it was the critical work of our nurses, doctors, techs and support staff who saw us through the darkest days and made the difference,” said Isakson.

ER staff during Omicron

Weiss ED staff shines during Omicron surge

With the Omicron surge, Weiss was inundated with elderly patients from surrounding nursing homes as well as an influx of patients caught up in community outbreaks. The uptick in COVID-19 cases resulted in an overwhelming volume of patients in the emergency department, peaking in the last few weeks of January. While many patients experiencing mild symptoms could be treated and released as quickly as possible, patients with severe cases, mainly the unvaccinated, were admitted to the third floor COVID-19 unit or the ICU.

Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Yolanda Coleman secured additional agency staffing and implemented surge bonuses to encourage staff to take on extra shifts. ER staff continues to receive free healthy meals daily from dietary services.

“The surge bonuses have helped make working a 12-plus hour shift more palatable. Staff care for the well-being of their co-workers. By picking up an extra shift they are helping to relieve some of the burden of their colleagues,” commented Isakson.

“The ER nurses are the heroes at Weiss, as they are all over the nation, keeping patients safe and showing compassion and professionalism to the community here in Uptown and Edgewater in Chicago. It is one of the hardest jobs in the world right now,” said Weiss Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Nicholas Graff.